A to Z · Fiction

T is for The Troubles of Time Travel – #AtoZ2018

‘Tell me about time travel,’ Martin sipped his cognac.

‘What do you want to know?’ Lyndon placed his brandy balloon on the mahogany table. He stuffed some tobacco into his pipe and used a tamper to press it down.

‘Everything! Starting with, is time travel possible?’

Lyndon struck a match and moved it in languid circles over the tobacco. ‘Yes! It is possible,’ He chugged on the pipe gently to get the tobacco to evenly light up.

‘Really?’

‘Of course! I’ve travelled.’ Lyndon took a gentle puff and exhaled, ‘Ah! That’s the stuff!’

‘So, tell me about it.’

‘Martin, there’s too much to say. I’ll need years, if not decades to explain everything. Let’s do a Q&A session. You ask specific questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my knowledge and ability.’

Martin shrugged and crossed his legs, ‘Alright! Can you travel to the past?’

‘Yes! I’ve done that. I’ve witnessed the great flood, I’ve seen Brutus stabbing Caesar, I saw Benito Mussolini hanging, I guffawed as Archimedes ran naked as the day he was born shouting ‘Eureka!’, and I cried as millions walked towards their death in the gas chambers.’ Lyndon suppressed a shiver ‘The past hasn’t been a great place to visit, trust me!’

‘Alright! How about changing the past. You could have saved those millions, if you’d murdered Adolf Hitler as a child.’

Lyndon smiled wryly, ‘It’s not that simple, Martin. Time is something that cannot be expressed linearly. It’s much more complex.’

‘Well, what about the Grandfather Paradox then?’

‘What about it?’

‘If I travel back in time and murder my wife’s grandfather, won’t I be making sure that she’d never be born?’

‘Maybe! Maybe not! Let’s go with most probably not.’

‘How can there be any other alternative? Imagine I’m traveling to say June 1927 and I kill my wife’s grandfather Henry. So, by the time I come back to 2018, she shouldn’t exist right?’

‘Nope! She’ll be here alright.’

‘Lyndon, you are making no sense at all.’

‘Am I now?’

‘Yeah! How can you say with certainty that my wife, Clara, will still be here if I go back in time and murder her grandfather, Henry, before he even attains puberty?’

Lyndon tapped his pipe on the ashtray and got rid of the ashes, ‘Martin, have you watched Star Trek?’

‘Yes?’

‘All episodes?’

‘Every single episode and the movies too. I’ve even watched all the Doctor Who episodes.’

‘Ah! Therein lies the problem. There is a reason why those series and movies are called Science fiction and not science. The theories, especially those related to time travel, they expound are… to put it simply – hokum!’

‘What?’

‘Yes, Sir! Time travel is not simple as it is on TV or the big screen.’

‘Oh yeah?’

‘Yes! Trust me, I know! I have travelled back in time.’

‘Only back?’

‘Later! Now, let me address your conundrum. You perceive time to be like a string in which various events, that is moments, are akin to beads. Right?’ Lyndon grabbed a paper napkin and drew a straight lines with four circles interspersed in it, ‘Something like this, yeah? Event A leading to event B and so on and so forth, right?’

Martin took a sip of his cognac and made a face. He didn’t like it after the ice had melted, ‘Yeah! Something like that.’

‘Martin, there are two wrong assumptions on your behalf. First, time doesn’t correspond to a straight line and second, who in the world adds ice cubes to cognac?’

‘Alright, smart guy! Explain to me what’s wrong in my theory.’

Lyndon smiled and took a deep drag of his pipe, ‘First, time doesn’t correspond to your linear theory. Second, there are variables and constants in any equation. The past is akin to constant. If something has happened in the past, it has happened! Set in stone. Period!’

‘But!’

‘Let me consider your own query. Suppose I let you borrow my time machine and you use it to travel to June 1927…’

‘I will see Clara’s Grandpa Henry as a twelve year old. What’s gonna stop me from offing him?’

‘Nothing!’

‘Nothing?’

‘Yes, nothing! Don’t get carried away by fiction writers’ fertile imagination. Time will not resist any changes to the past. I’m sure you’d have read Stephen King’s 11.22.63. In that time does its level best to deter the protagonist Jake Epping from stopping the assassination of JFK.’

‘Yes, I’ve read that. Watched the TV series as well.’

‘Will you be surprised if I tell you that the reality is nothing like what Stephen King portrays?’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Consider this. You go back in time to, say, June 1927. You see Clara’s grandpa Henry gambolling in his farm. Do you think that you can pull your .45 and knock him off?’

Martin lit himself a cigarette, ‘Yes! I’m sure there’ll be some resistance from the time-space continuum. But the deed can be done.’

‘Ok! You’ve travelled back 91 years and murdered a twelve year old Henry Marshall. What do you think will happen then?’

‘Lyndon, are you being obtuse on purpose?’

‘No! Get on with your theory.’

‘I kill Henry Marshall in 1927. That’ll ensure he will not meet Rose McIntyre in 1938. They will not get married in November 1939. Tristan Marshall will not be born in 1950. Tristan will not meet Sarah Mitchell in 1976. They will not get married in 1980 and most definitely Clara Marshall wouldn’t be born on 11th September, 1977.’

Lyndon just smiled an enigmatic smile.

‘What?’

‘What do you know about Causal loops?’

‘Errr… what?’

‘Wiki it when you are sober. You’ll understand it better.’ Lyndon refilled his brandy, ‘Martin, your basic assumption of time being linear is wrong. Time works something like this.’ He grabbed another napkin and drew on it.

20180422_225407.jpg

‘Now! Time behaves something like this. Not essentially like this, mind! Let’s consider your example. In 1915, Henry Marshall is born. That’s a constant, because it has already occurred. In 1938 he meets Rose McIntyre. That’s again a constant. Now, consider this – what if Henry Marshall never went to the Fairmont on 24th August 1938. He wouldn’t have met Rose, right? So there were two possibilities for that particular event, but on 24th August 1938. Are you following me?’

‘Yes!’

‘Right! Time travel is possible. I’m the living example of its success. But if you recall my statement, I’d have talked about witnessing, but not participating.’

‘Yeah! So what?’

‘Martin, let me ask you a question. Imagine, I let you borrow my time machine and you use it to travel to the past. What do you think will happen to your body in the present?’

‘It’ll travel along with the time machine to the past, wouldn’t it?’

‘Wrong! Trust me, I thought that too. I was naïve then.’

‘So what happens?’

‘Before my third voyage, I fitted cameras in my room before I initiated the travel sequence. Once I returned, I watched the video tape.’

‘And?’

‘I saw my body pulsating. One moment it was there and the next moment it was not. I ascertained the phenomenon only after watching the super slow motion version of the video.’

‘What?’

‘Yeah! What it meant was my body was being projected back into time. It never travelled completely, only a representation of it did.’

‘So, you were both here and there?’

‘Essentially, yes! If anyone had seen me in the past, they’d have seen a flickering image of me and would have got spooked beyond their wits.’

‘Lyndon, don’t confuse me. Give it to me in layman’s terms.’

‘Alright! You can travel to the past. But you cannot alter it. You cannot interfere with it because of the temporal paradox. You can witness the events as they occurred then, yes. But you cannot modify it.’

‘Why?’

‘Because what you travel to is not a part of the timeline, but rather to isolated pockets of time. For example, you travel to 1915 to witness Henry Marshall’s birth. You may decide to kill him then and there. Let’s assume you overcome the temporal paradox and manage to kill him immediately after birth. Do you think that him meeting Rose in 1938 wouldn’t occur?’

Martin spat, ‘Sonofabitch! Henry meeting Rose in 1938 is a completely different time pocket right?’

‘Precisely! That’s why I used the term constants. What has happened in the past are constants. You can go back and witness them, but you can never change them. There are a lot of probabilities for one isolated event. Imagine the probability of your one single action affecting the overall web of possibilities. It’s next to nothing. That is the reason why I said that if you go back in time and kill Henry, Clara will most probably be still here.’

‘Shit! What about time travel to future, then?’

‘Martin, you are a software engineer. Are you familiar with the sandbox concept?’

‘Yes.  Sandbox is a testing environment that isolates untested code changes and outright experimentation from the production environment or repository… Holy shit!’

Lyndon shrugged, ‘Yes, it is exactly what you think. The future is uncertain. There are too many variables in the equation. Travel to one minute in the future and you’ll know for certain what you’ll see. Travel one year, you are almost certain…travel one millennia and you don’t know what to expect. Time travel to the future is not worth it after all.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes! Can you with some amount of confidence claim that you could have prevented any of the wars by traveling to the future? No, because you don’t know. Imagine today’s date is 27 June 1914. You have a time machine at your disposal. Would you have been able to prevent the onset of World War I?’

‘Err?’

‘All you had to do was travel one day into the future and prevent one Gavrilo Princip from assassinating Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife. Would you have been able to manage it?’

‘No! I couldn’t have. I would have never known about the existence of this Princip fellow or his plans.’

‘Precisely! So that’s the problem with time travel to future. You don’t know what to expect and in all probability all you’d find is the basic frameworks of earth and human life. That’s all. So the idea of going to the future, knowing results of sporting events and going back and betting on them is a non-starter.’

‘Shit! What do I do now?’

Lyndon smiled, ‘Martin, you screwed up. You shouldn’t have slept with your secretary and you most definitely shouldn’t have videotaped it. Better grant Clara the divorce and alimony she claims. Time travel cannot help you, my friend!’

 

 

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42 thoughts on “T is for The Troubles of Time Travel – #AtoZ2018

  1. The science concepts were over my head; all sounded feasible, so – for me – it held together really well. I especially enjoyed the ending twist bringing us all back down to earth.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was going great as a scifi and had me hooked on ! I was half expecting Martin to actually time travel and then the last line blast came ! Too convoluted a solution for him tho.. but enjoyed the story ! Good one Varad 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the police in 2018 are light years ahead of their counterparts in 1927 for starters. Also, when you know there’s a time machine available, you would want to make it a part of your plans, wouldn’t you? 🤣 thanks for the comment, Emily

      Like

  3. My head is reeling from all that science talk. And for what? I could have told Martin that. He needs a better advisor, this Lyndon talks too much. 😛 Enjoyed the read, loved the twist. Had me laughing out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There was so much of sci-fi going on I never expected the twist in the end. Lol it had me in splits. All the detailed info on time travel had me hooked till the last expeCting something different but did not know what?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, given the known parameters, time travel is not risky at all. Basically you cannot alter anything that has already happened. It’s almost like a VR experience – going back in time. Thanks for the comment, DeeDee. Hope you are feeling better now.

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  5. Time travel and physics…. my pet topic for random musings…, loved your time pocket explanation. For a moment there I wondered if you were going to drag in miltiverses for explaining away te grandfather paradox but this was a new one! But I have to admit your visualisation of time as pockets seems counterintuitive…. time like gravity is supposed to flow in one direction, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew I’d get a good discussion from you. Yes, time is supposed to flow in one direction. That is the premise of my (made-up :D) theory as well. I surmised that time while flowing continuously stores the past in pockets and while we go to a specific point in time, actually don’t enter the time-stream but the specific time pockets based on the exit point. As such there is no clear idea of how time travel might work. I even read a convincing argument that time travel to the past is possible only from the point of the invention of the first ever time machine, and the only way to work around this conundrum is to accept the possibility of multiverses.

      Oooh! Mutliverses! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read that theory about being able to travel only until when the first machine was invented. I personally think it’s hokum. I think visualising infinite universes explains away the grandfather paradox (have you read Michael Crichton’s Timeline?) but then hey I am a girl who believes in multiverses! But gotta say loved your reimagination and a new explanation on a stale topic where I thought all permutations have already been discussed. Excellent writing!

        Liked by 1 person

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